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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Cumulative risk and developmental health: an argument for the importance of a family‐wide science

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A substantial body of research links social disadvantage and developmental health via a cascade running from poverty, to cumulative psychosocial risk, to disrupted family dynamics, to child biological regulatory systems and neurocognitive processing, and finally to morbidity across the lifespan. Most research in this area employs single‐dyad or between‐family methodology. While informative, there are limitations to this approach. Specifically, it is impossible to determine how risk alters psychosocial environments that are similar for all persons within a household, versus processes that are unique to particular children. This is important in light of literature citing the primacy of child‐specific environments in driving developmental health. Methodologically speaking, there are both benefits and challenges to family‐wide approaches that differentiate between‐ and within‐family environments. This review describes literature linking cumulative risk and developmental health via family process, while articulating the importance of family‐wide approaches. Areas of shortcoming and recommendations for a family‐wide science are provided. WIREs Cogn Sci 2015, 6:397–407. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1349 This article is categorized under: Psychology > Development and Aging Psychology > Theory and Methods
The hierarchical levels of the family are uniquely impacted by cumulative risk and have corresponding consequences on developmental health.
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A developmental cascade indirectly links family and household poverty and developmental health via cumulative distal risk, proximal family processes across hierarchical levels of analysis, and child biological and neurocognitive functioning. Direct effects and a fourth dimension of time are implied across the entire cascade, in addition to bidirectional associations, such as child toward the family and family toward the child.
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Psychology > Theory and Methods
Psychology > Development and Aging

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